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Communications Decisions

Language and speech are two different things. While speech consists of individual sounds that are combined to make words and sentences, language is the meaningful organization of thoughts for communication. Spoken language is normally learned by hearing it. When hearing is impaired, special means must be devised for each child to learn that language. Since every hearing loss is different and every child learns differently, there is no single approach to communicating the meaning of language that is best for all children. The one need that all deaf and hard of hearing children have in common is the need for effective communication of meaningful information, including information that says, "I love you."

Advocates of all communication approaches may tell you that their method is in some way natural. All communication is natural for some people under certain circumstances and there are many ways to accomplish it. All the approaches work toward developing communication, and they all stress things like receptive language (understanding) and expressive language development. Most work on speech development and all work on reading skills. All have been successful with children with varying degrees of hearing loss. Many families have chosen to use aspects of different programs, combining what works for their child. The only thing that makes one approach better than another is when that approach happens to work better for a particular child. The teachers are trained educators and they usually understand the necessity of developing the total child. In any case, it is the degree of a parent's involvement with the program that seems to make the greatest difference.


Do you know what your options are for communication?
Do you understand these options?
Have you examined them in person?
Do you understand all test results?
How much time do you have to devote to learning the methodology?

All methods require a commitment on your part in order for you to be able to communicate with your child. That everyday commitment to communicating is the key to your child's language development.

Remember that the choice of educational approach must involve consideration of the child's needs, the family situation, and the programs available in the area. Once you have chosen an approach, it is important to learn it and give it a fair chance to succeed. However, if you find that an approach is not working for your child, you should not feel locked-in to it. Another approach may work better. You have the right and the responsibility to re-evaluate your child's progress and request changes when they are appropriate.

Communication Choices A to Z

Hands & Voices-National                 www.handsandvoices.org

This link will provide you with information about the different communication choices you have in regards to deafness and hearing loss.  The information can be found on the homepage of the National Hands & Voices site, where you can browse additional topics also.Parent contact phone numbers-Deb at (307)782-3228 or Wendy at (307)782-3276.
Hands & Voices National Office contact phone number:  (303)492-6283

American Sign Language:
The American Society for Deaf Children - www.deafchildren.org
The National Association for the Deaf -www.nad.org

Auditory -Verbal:
A.G. Bell Association - www.agbell.org
Auditory-Verbal, International - www.auditory-verbal.org

Cued Speech:
The National Cued Speech Association - www.cuedspeech.org
Cued Language Network of America (CLNA) - www.cuedlanguage.org
DailyCues.com - www.dailycues.com
Testing, Evaluation, and Certification (TECUnit) - www.tecunit.org
Cued Speech Products and Materials - www.cafepress.com
Cued Speech Information -www.cuedspeech.info
Cuetah - www.cuetah.com
Language Matters, Inc. - www.language-matters.com

Oral - Oral Education:
Oral Education - www.oraldeafed.org
Deaf Education - www.deafed.net

Total Communication - Educating Children Who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing:



  American Sign Language/
English as a Second Language (ASL/ESL)
Auditory-Verbal Unisensory Cued Speech Oral Auditory-Oral Total Communication
Definition A manual language that is distinct from spoken English (ASL is not based on English grammar/syntax). Extensively used within and among the deaf community. English is taught as a second language. A program emphasizing auditory skills. Teaches a child to develop listening skills through one-on-one therapy that focuses attention on use of remaining hearing (with the aid of amplification). Since this method strives to make the most of a child’s listening abilities, no manual communication is used and the child is discouraged from relying on visual cues. A visual communication system of eight handshapes (cues) that represent different sounds of speech. These cues are used while talking to make the spoken language clear through vision. This system allows the child to distinguish sounds that look the same on the lips. Program that teaches a child to make maximum use of his/her remaining hearing through amplification (hearing aids, cochlear implant, FM system). This program also stresses the use of speech reading to aid the child’s communication. Use of any form of manual communication (sign language) is not encouraged although natural gestures may be supported. Philosophy of using every and all means to communicate with deaf children. The child is exposed to a formal sign-language system (based on English), finger spelling (manual alphabet), natural gestures, speech reading, body language, oral speech and use of amplification. The idea is to communicate and teach vocabulary and language in any manner that works.
Primary Goals To be the deaf child’s primary language and allow him/her to communicate before learning to speak or even if the child never learns to speak effectively. Since ASL is commonly referred to as "the language of the deaf", it prepares the child for social access to the deaf community. To develop speech, primarily through the use of aided hearing alone, and communication skills necessary for integration into the hearing community. To develop language and literacy skills necessary for integration into the hearing community. To develop speech and communication skills necessary for integration into the hearing community. To provide an easy, least restrictive communication method between the deaf child and his/her family, teachers and schoolmates. The child’s simultaneous use of speech and sign language is encouraged as is use of all other visual and contextual cues.
Language Development
Language is developed through the use of ASL. English is taught as a second language after the child has mastered ASL. Child learns to speak through the early, consistent and successful use of a personal amplification system (hearing aids, cochlear implant, FM system). Child learns to speak through the use of amplification, speech reading and use of "cues" which represent different sounds. Child learns to speak through a combination of early, consistent and successful use of amplification and speechreading. Language (be it spoken or sign or a combination of the two) is developed through exposure to oral speech, a formal sign language system, speech reading and the use of an amplification system.
Expressive Language ASL is child’s primary expressive language in addition to written English. Spoken and written English Spoken English (sometimes with the use of cues) and written English. Spoken and written English Spoken English and/or sign language and finger spelling and written English
Hearing Use of amplification is not a requirement for success with ASL. Early, consistent and successful use of amplification (hearing aids, cochlear implant, FM system) is critical to this approach. Use of amplification is strongly encouraged to maximize the use of remaining hearing. Early and consistent use of amplification (hearing aids, cochlear implant, FM system) is critical to this method. Use of a personal amplification system (hearing aids, cochlear implant, FM system) is strongly encouraged to allow child to make the most of his/her remaining hearing.
Family Responsibility Child must have access to deaf and/or hearing adults who are fluent in ASL in order to develop this as a primary language. If the parents choose this method they will need to become fluent to communicate with their child fully. Since the family is primarily responsible for the child’s language development, parents are expected to incorporate on-going training into the child’s daily routine and play activities. They must provide a language-rich environment, make hearing a meaningful part of all the child’s experiences and ensure full-time use of amplification. Parents are the primary teachers of cued speech to their child. They are expected to cue at all times while they speak; consequently, at least one parent and preferably both must learn to cue fluently for the child to develop age-appropriate speech & language. Since the family is primarily responsible for the child’s language development, parents are expected to incorporate training and practice sessions (learned from therapists) into the child’s daily routine and play activities. In addition, the family is responsible for ensuring consistent use of amplification. At least one, but preferably all family members, should learn the chosen sign language system in order for the child to develop age-appropriate language and communicate fully with his/her family. It should be noted that a parent’s acquisition of sign vocabulary and language is a long term, ongoing process. As the child’s expressive sign language broadens and becomes more complex, so too should the parents’ in order to provide the child with a stimulating language learning environment. The family is also responsible for encouraging consistent use of amplification.
Parent Training If parents are not deaf, intensive ASL training and education about deaf culture is desired in order for the family to become proficient in the language. Parents need to be highly involved with child’s teacher and/or therapists (speech, auditory-verbal, etc.) in order to learn training methods and carry them over to the home environment. Cued speech can be learned through classes taught by trained teachers or therapists. A significant amount of time must be spent using and practicing cues to become proficient. Parents need to be highly involved with child’s teacher and/or therapists (speech, aural habilitation, etc) to carry over training activities to the home and create an optimal "oral" learning environment. These training activities would emphasize development of listening, speech reading and speech skills. Parents must consistently sign while they speak to their child (simultaneous communication). Sign language courses are routinely offered through the community, local colleges, adult education, etc. Additionally, many books and videos are widely available. To become fluent, signing must be used consistently and become a routine part of your communication.

Reference Chart by Beginnings

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